The remarkable ability of New Orleans to produce trumpet (and cornet) players — which began with Buddy Bolden and reached its zenith with Louis Armstrong — shows no sign of abating. One of the latest entrants is Nicholas Payton. Here is part of Payton’s Wikipedia profile:
The son of bassist and sousaphonist Walter Payton, he took up the trumpet at the age of four and by the time he was nine he was playing in the Young Tuxedo Brass Band alongside his father. Upon leaving school, he enrolled first at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and then at the University of New Orleans, where he studied with Ellis Marsalis.
After touring with Marcus Roberts and Elvin Jones in the early 90s, Payton signed a recording contract with Verve; his first album, From This Moment, appeared in 1994. In 1996 he performed on the soundtrack of the movie Kansas City, and in 1997 received a Grammy Award (Best Instrumental Solo) for his playing on the album Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton. After seven albums on Verve, Payton signed with Warner Bros. Records, releasing Sonic Trance, his first album on the new label, in 2003. Besides his recordings under his own name, Payton has also played and recorded with Wynton Marsalis, Dr. Michael White, Christian McBride, Joshua Redman, Roy Hargrove, Doc Cheatham and Joe Henderson. (Continue Reading…)
Louis Armstrong is my favorite musician — not only for how he played, but for who he was. And, perhaps more than anyone who ever lived, Armstrong is the American story, both the good and the bad. What made him great — triumphant — wasn’t that he revolutionized American music (though that isn’t bad). It was that he came through it all smiling and happily settled down in Corona, New York.
I always am interested in what other musicians say about Armstrong. It is particularly interesting in Payton’s case, because he is one of Armstrong’s artistic grandchildren. This is what he posted on his blog four years ago in a poem entitled “On Louis Armstrong:”
Louis Armstrong’s trumpet is like the voice of God.
He’s not asking; he’s telling you.
Miles is more malleable; compassionate like Christ.
Pops is so Old Testament.
His voice dry.
His articulation crisp.
His phrasing so sharp and spot on.
He favors melodies with repetitive notes as if to drive his point home to you.
Armstrong’s is the trumpet of tough love.
I have three reactions to this. First, it is interesting that Payton mixes the emotional/subjective (“Old Testament”) with the professional’s comparison of the styles of Armstrong and Miles Davis. Secondly, Louis Armstrong and his smile certainly don’t pop into my mind when I read the Old Testament, which isn’t a lot of laughs. Finally, I don’t think Payton would mind that half of a post that is supposed to be about him ended up being a discussion of Louis Armstrong. (On a side note, Payton seems to enjoy blogging as much as playing the trumpet. He doesn’t lack strong opinions.)
Above is “Bag’s Groove” and below is “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South,” which was performed with The Barcelona Jazz Orchestra.
Like many people my age (and younger), my impressions of the world, for better or worse, are shaped by video. I was thoroughly convinced for years that World War II was in black and white until about the middle of 1944, when suddenly it became a full color affair. The Pacific Theater apparently was colorized first.
Likewise, my impression of France is from video. (I was sort of there there only once, and barely. I covered a trade show in Geneva, Switzerland that was so crowded that our hotel was across the border in France. We had to carry our passports to get to and from the exhibition hall.) Charles Trenet is my idea of France. You’ll know what I mean after a few bars.
The song above is “Douce France,” which starts about a minute into the video. Old jazz people used to say that somebody who “got” jazz and had sufficient skills was swinging, no matter what the tempo of the song. It is an inherent understanding of what differentiates jazz from stodgier forms of music. It’s an ethos more than a style. Anyone with any doubts that the French can swing should check out Trenet and the pianist, especially in the second half of the song. I am assuming the pianist is French.
The song below is “La Mer.” It’s fascinating: It turns out that “Beyond the Sea” — perhaps Bobby Darin’s greatest hit — is a cover of this song, at least musically. The lyrics, apparently, are completely different. Trenet’s version is a bit slower, but great.
Here is a bit of a profile of Trenet at RFI music. I am purposefully pulling out the passage about the war years, which clearly presented choices for entertainers in occupied countries:
At the start of WWII, Charles Trenet, who had become a national hero, was mobilized. He was barracked at the military base of Salon-de-Provence until he was demobilized in June 40. Then he moved back to Paris, where the cultural and night scenes were still in full swing despite the German occupation. In the French capital, he would perform at the Folies-Bergère or at the Gaieté Parisienne (two famous cabarets) in front of a public often consisting of German officers and soldiers. The collaborationist press tried to compromise his name and published that ‘Trenet’ was the anagram of ‘Netter’—a Jewish name. But the singer was able to show his family tree to the German authorities, proving he had no Jewish origin. This act of self-defense will be reproached to him long after the end of the war. Like many other artists of the time, he chose to go on entertaining the occupant rather than sacrifice his career, showing little interest in the Jewish issue—an attitude that some still regard as collaboration. What’s more, he even agreed, when asked by the German authorities, to go and sing for the French prisoners in Germany (Edith Piaf and Maurice Chevalier did the same). However, although he spoke perfect German, Trenet would always refuse to speak that language or to socialize with the occupant at the parties thrown after the concerts.
During the Liberation the artist did not suffer from the suspicious and accusing climate. Nevertheless he decided to move to America where he lived for a few years. It did not take long before the Americans were fond of the French singer. After a few triumphant concerts at the Bagdad in New York, Trenet became a big hit in the States and was approached by Hollywood. He met the likes of George Gershwin, Louis Armstrong and stroke up a long-lasting friendship with Charlie Chaplin. His song ‘La Mer’, which according to the legend he had composed with Leo Chauliac on a train in 1943, was recorded in 1946. It was immediately translated into English by Jack Lawrence and became ‘Beyond the sea’. It was a smashing success in the English-speaking world where it became a classic. About 4000 covers were made of ‘La Mer’ across the world. (Continue Reading…)
The 4,000 figure in the last sentence is, of course, a mistake. Trenet died in 2001 at age 88.
I am not sure why this bio of Tito Puente ended up on a site called Cengage Learning, but it did. It does the job, too:
Tito Puente is internationally recognized for his seminal contributions to Latin music as a bandleader, composer, arranger, and percussionist. Known as “El Rey,” or The King of Mambo, he has recorded an unprecedented 100 albums, published more than 400 compositions, and won four Grammy awards. “In a day when pop singers fake their way to the top and when for many artists, success is the child of hype, Puente is one of only a handful of musicians who deserve the title ‘legendary,’” Mark Holston stated in Américas.
Credited with introducing the timbal — a double tom-tom played with sticks — and the vibraphone to Afro-Cuban music, Puente also plays the trap drums, the conga drums, the claves, the piano, and occasionally, the saxophone and the clarinet. While Puente is perhaps best known for his all-time best-selling 1958 mambo album Dance Mania, his eclectic sound has continued to transcend cultural and generational boundaries. As a testament to his popularity with a younger audience, Puente has recorded with rocker Carlos Santana and has performed regularly at college concerts throughout the country. He has also appeared in several films, received a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and performed on television’s The David Letterman Show. (Continue Reading…)
Here is the beginning of Puente’s Wikipedia profile:
Ernesto Antonio “Tito” Puente, (April 20, 1923 – June 1, 2000), was a Latin jazz and salsa musician and composer. The son of native Puerto Ricans, Ernest and Ercilia Puente, living in New York City’sSpanish Harlem community, Puente is often credited as “The Musical Pope,” “El Rey de los Timbales” (The King of the timbales) and “The King of Latin Music.” He is best known for dance-oriented mambo and Latin jazz compositions that helped keep his career going for 50 years. He and his music appear in many films such as The Mambo Kings and Fernando Trueba‘s Calle 54. He guest-starred on several television shows including Sesame Street, The Cosby Show and The Simpsons. (Continue Reading…)
From his body language while playing to his unique, free flowing improvisations, there is nobody like Keith Jarrett.
This is from AllMusic:
Pianist, composer, and bandleader Keith Jarrett is one of the most prolific, innovative, and iconoclastic musicians to emerge from the late 20th century. As a pianist (though that is by no means the only instrument he plays) he literally changed the conversation in jazz by introducing an entirely new aesthetic regarding solo improvisation in concert. Though capable of playing in a wide variety of styles, Jarrett is deeply grounded in the jazz tradition. He has recorded nearly 80 albums as a leader in jazz and classical music. And he has won the Down Beat Critics Poll as a pianist numerous times — including consecutively between 2001 and 2008. (Continue Reading…)
Jarrett has played for years with drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Gary Peacock. NPR also offers a profile of the pianist:
Whether playing solo or in an ensemble, Jarrett has always taken improvisation to its highest degree. When playing solo, he often begins with no music or preconceived notions. His top selling 1975 album, The Koln Concerts provides ample testament to Jarrett’s prowess on the piano. Incidentally, when Jarrett improvises, he really doesn’t hear the piano. (Continue Reading…)
This website describes itself as an unofficial place to find Jarrett news. Above is “Summertime” and below is “God Save the Child.”
Stanley Clarke is a highly regarded jazz bassist most widely known for his work with Chick Corea and Return to Forever. However, his career is extremely varied, from cutting edge jazz to scoring movies. Clarke even wrote music for Pee Wee’s Playhouse, a 1990′s children’s show starring Pee Wee Herman. A comprehensive Wikipedia profile is here.
This is the start of an interesting interview with Clarke at the Arts App Blog:
Ehe xploding into the jazz world in 1971, Stanley was a lanky teenager from the Philadelphia Academy of Music. He arrived in New York City and immediately landed jobs with famous bandleaders such as: Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Pharaoh Saunders, Gil Evans, Stan Getz, and a budding young pianist composer named Chick Corea. (Continue Reading…)
Above is School Days, the title track from his first big album. Below, he Victor Wooten and Marcus Miller play Beat It in a tribute to Michael Jackson.
The first few seconds of Song For My Father (above) sound a lot like the start of Steely Dan’s Rikki Don’t Lose That Number, which of course came years later. Below is Señor Blues.
Silver is a very influential pianist who played a form of jazz called hard bop, which perhaps should be explained before discussing Silver:
Hard bop is a style of jazz that is an extension of bebop (or “bop”) music. Journalists and record companies began using the term in the mid-1950sto describe a new current within jazz which incorporated influences from rhythm and blues, gospel music, and blues, especially in saxophone andpiano playing.
David H. Rosenthal contends in his book Hard Bop that the genre is, to a large degree, the natural creation of a generation of African-American musicians who grew up at a time when bop and rhythm and blues were the dominant forms of black American music.:24 Prominent hard bop musicians included Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis and Tadd Dameron. (Continue Reading…)
Here is the beginning of Silver’s AllMusic bio:
From the perspective of the early 2000s, it is clear that few jazz musicians have had a greater impact on the contemporary mainstream than Horace Silver. The hard bop style that Silver pioneered in the ’50s is now dominant, played not only by holdovers from an earlier generation, but also by fuzzy-cheeked musicians who had yet to be born when the music fell out of critical favor in the ’60s and ’70s.
Here is the beginning of jazz pianist Bud Powell’s bio at Wikipedia:
Earl Rudolph “Bud” Powell (September 27, 1924 – July 31, 1966) was a jazz pianist who was born and raised in Harlem, New York City. His greatest influences on his instrument were Thelonious Monk, who became his close friend, and Art Tatum. Along with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, Powell was a key player in the development of bebop, and his virtuosity as a pianist led many to call him the Charlie Parker of the piano. (Continue Reading…)
NPR’s bio is striking starts out in about the same way:
Powell pioneered the revolutionary bebop sound along with alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis, pianist Thelonious Monk, and drummer Max Roach. Pianist Bill Evans considers Powell the most underestimated figure in this elite group, though Davis himself called Bud “the greatest pianist in this era.” Bud’s playing always appealed to great musicians, and his rehearsals at home often drew a crowd of them. (Continue Reading…)
It wasn’t a happy life, however, according to the bios. Here is one at AllMusic:
A breakdown in 1951 and hospitalization that resulted in electroshock treatments weakened him, butPowell was still capable of playing at his best now and then, most notably at the 1953 Massey Hall Concert. Generally in the 1950s his Blue Notes find him in excellent form, while he is much more erratic on his Verve recordings. His warm welcome and lengthy stay in Paris (1959-1964) extended his life a bit, but even here Powell spent part of 1962-1963 in the hospital. He returned to New York in 1964, disappeared after a few concerts, and did not live through 1966. (Continue Reading…)